THE Philippine men’s football team steps up its buildup for the Suzuki Cup as it plays a pair of friendlies starting against Bahrain on Friday night at the Rizal Memorial Stadium.
The Azkals are getting a boost with the return of Stephan Schrock, who missed the last few matches owing to club duty with Ceres-La Salle, and the expected debut of Mike Ott, Manny’s younger brother.
Kickoff is at 8 p.m. with the Filipino booters gunning for no less than a win with the Suzuki Cup less than two months away.
“There are no friendly games; it is only a fight between nations,” Azkals coach Thomas Dooley said in the pre-match press conference on Thursday.
The Azkals face North Korea next on Monday.
While Daisuke Sato and Stephan Palla are out with injuries, Mike Ott, who plays for fourth-tier German league Regionalliga Bayern, is in for the Azkals, who will still be led by Misagh Bahadoran and Phil Younghusband.
It will be the Philippines’ fourth meeting against Bahrain in the last two years, splitting their last two matches, a 2-1 win at the PSS in the World Cup qualifiers and a 2-0 loss in the return leg at the opponent’s turf.